What Would Bob Do? Removing Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Bob Vila answers a reader's question about removing wall-to-wall carpeting.

How to Remove Carpet

Photo: charlesandhudson.com

I am moving to a new house where the living room and dining area have wall-to-wall carpeting. I asked the previous owner, and he told me there is hardwood flooring underneath. Could you please tell me how to remove this carpet?

Even with regular vacuuming, carpeting accumulates a great deal of dust, dirt, and debris. So if and when you finally decide to rip it up, be sure to give the floor covering one last good vacuuming. Empty the room of furnishings, open the windows, don your dust mask—then get to work!

PROJECT SUMMARY

  1. Take off the shoe molding, if necessary.
  2. Cut the carpeting into narrow strips.
  3. Roll up the carpeting strips and set them aside.
  4. Pry up the tack strips along the room’s perimeter.
  5. Remove the carpet padding.

For detailed step-by-step instructions on how to remove wall-to-wall carpeting, continue reading below!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Large contractor trash bags
Nail puller pliers
Steel putty knife
Flat pry bar (at least 15″)
Hammer
Utility knife (or tin snips)
Leather work gloves
Carpet padding adhesive remover (optional)
Scraper (optional)

STEP 1: Take off the shoe molding, if necessary.

Was your carpeting installed under shoe molding? Assuming it was, the first thing to do is remove that trimwork with your putty knife and pry bar. Chances are the trim is full of nails; take care when pulling them out. Check the shoe molding for damage: If it remains in good shape, save it for reuse. If the molding looks a little worse for wear, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint prior to reinstallation.

STEP 2: Cut the carpeting into narrow strips.

Now that there is no obstruction between you and the carpeting, use a utility knife or a sharpened pair of tin snips to cut the carpet material into three- or four-foot-wide strips. Cut all the way through the backing but stop short of the flooring beneath.

STEP 3: Roll up the carpeting strips and set them aside.

Begin pulling the carpet away from the tack strips on the perimeter. Roll up the sections as you remove them, placing them into heavy-duty trash bags ready for disposal.

STEP 4: Pry up the tack strips along the room’s perimeter.

Go to work on the tack strips, which are typically nailed to the floor and have rows of staggered tacks that face up to “grab” the carpet. Because the tacks are so sharp, it’s wise to wear leather work gloves at this stage. Insert the hooked end of your pry bar under a tack strip, then press down on the long end to lift the strip. Place all strips within rolls of carpeting, so the tacks can’t tear through the plastic garbage bags.

STEP 5: Remove the carpet padding.

The final step is to remove the carpet padding. If it has been installed with adhesive, laborious scraping may be necessary, or you can try a commercial adhesive remover. If the padding has been stapled into place, you can rely on nail puller pliers to do the job without gouging your floor surface. Note that before being able to grab the nails with pliers, you might first need to coax them a little with a putty knife.